Happy Together (1999) [16 episodes, approx 1 hour each]
directed by Oh Jong Rok, written by Bae Yoo Mi
starring Lee Byung Hun, Song Seung Hun, Kim Ha Neul, Jun Ji Hyun, Cha Tae Hyun
Korean w/ English subtitles
This is one of the earlier K-dramas having been broadcast in 1999 around the time that K-dramas began to spread across Asia and gain popularity. The show follows five siblings whom as children were separated after their parents died. Now years later, they are all adults and one of them is determined to reunite them all again. However due to the circumstances that split them up in the first place not all the siblings necessarily want to see each other.
What made me curious about this series was the fact that it starred many Korean actors early on in their careers who would become very popular today. I was particularly interested in three of the actors whom I had seen previously when I first started watching Korean cinema. I’d only seen Lee Byung Hun in more serious films like A Bittersweet life so it was interesting seeing him play a goofball type of character here. He overacts at times but the cheerfulness he exudes is hard to dislike. I had contrasting reactions to My Sassy Girl co-stars Jun Ji Hyun and Cha Tae Hyun. I liked Jun Ji Hyun’s character but Cha Tae Hyun who interestingly enough also plays her love interest here quickly became annoying with his overacting both in the dramatic and comedic scenes.
Wacky secondary characters aside, I really liked that the siblings were very down to earth. They don’t live in big fancy houses with tons of money. In fact they live in small, cramped rooms and are just barely getting by. It does possess many K-drama staples including hospital scenes, serious illness, at least one rich character and lots of crying. However, it’s nice that unlike most k-dramas the main theme is not romantic love but family love although there’s plenty of romantic love in the series too.
While I was really hooked on the first 11 episodes, I fast forwarded through parts of the next 4 episodes to get to the last episode. I mainly skipped flashback scenes from earlier episodes which occur quite frequently and almost any scene with the secondary characters as their overacting became too annoying. After episode 10 the waterworks are put into overdrive and I couldn’t help but laugh at the overabundance of crying that was going on. The music also sounded really 90s and thus it’s a bit cheesy but in a fun, nostalgic way. In spite of its flaws, I did enjoy this series and quickly became invested in the characters. It was definitely worth the $20 I spent on it from YesAsia.